East German Deprivation of Citizenship 1975

East German Deprivation of Citizenship

Sometimes, the story behind a document turns out to be most unusual and surprising. This story is such an example. The paper is not a passport but a citizenship document from East Germany (GDR). To be more precise, a certificate of deprivation of East German citizenship, which is pretty rare to find!

I asked the eBay-seller if he has more information about this document, and to my surprise, it was his document. Here his amazing story… East German Deprivation of Citizenship

I was born around 23 o’clock on 28.2.1953 and am said to have been “very calm” at birth – which was no feat for me because I had undoubtedly already slept well when I had to get out of mom’s stomach. In any case, birth probably didn’t interest me much, and I continued to sleep when I was outside. Since I was born in the middle of the night with electric light, I could only see the “light of the world” on the morning of March 1st. Some days later, Generalissimus Stalin died. (one comes, the other goes…) And when I was a tender 20 years old, I tried to get into West Germany via Hungary and Austria, which failed, and I had to join “Schwarze Pumpe” prison labor camp for two years. After my release, it took only six weeks before my application for expatriation was approved, and I was allowed to go to West Germany. East German Deprivation of Citizenship

East German Deprivation of Citizenship
Certificate number 12980 which could indicate the numbers of citizens expelled from GDR.

During my time in prison, I had written about 20 applications for expatriation, refused to work and also wrote applications for other prisoners. I was released normally, so I was not ransomed. I was then assigned a job and a final application for expatriation was accepted, which was approved 6 weeks later. An administrative fee of 30 marks had to be paid, but I would also have paid 500 marks for it. Since the GDR was a new member of the UNO at that time, they wanted (had to) show increased humanity and let hundreds of “political” people into the West – most of them were ransomed by the FRG.

I was arrested at the Hungarian-Austrian border near Sopron when I discovered that I could not cross there without tools. The plan was to show the GDR that I didn’t want to live in this system any longer and to move to the FRG. With my last GDR money I bought the ticket from Berlin via Hanover to Frankfurt/Main 1st class for 115 GDR-Mark and went on August 11th, 1975 with an “Identity Certificate” and the certificate of expatriation to Hanover. In Marienborn a young woman from the GDR customs came into the compartment and checked my papers. She looked at me a little hateful and asked “Do you think it is right to betray our German Democratic Republic? Fearing that she could get me off the train if she made a false (anti-state) statement, I said somewhat embarrassed: “Well, what should I do?! (stupid answer!) I couldn’t think of anything better. First I lived in Trier, then half a year in Cologne and from 1976 in Berlin-West. Until January 1977 I could still go to Berlin-East with a West German identity card, then the border authorities switched to computers and did not let anyone into the GDR who had left it in the last 5 years.

Only in December 1989 at Christmas, I visited my relatives again, after the Stasi was no longer active. Because I was previously on an East German wanted list for aiding and abetting an escape. In January 1990 I started to collect all food, cosmetics and other articles of daily use for a GDR museum because I knew that with the introduction of the DM all GDR products would disappear from real life. From 1991 to 2001 I bought GDR articles at East German flea markets for about 60.000 DM, which mostly went to the Berlin GDR Museum. In 1993 I was a co-founder of the documentation center for GDR everyday culture in Eisenhüttenstadt, where my collection was housed in 6 garages. I participated in several exhibitions and sold some UNIKAT to museums in Bonn, Leipzig, and Berlin. Since 2010 I mainly sell paper objects and leftovers of food, double GDR postcards, and Toys on eBay.

Photos from Juergen’s Stasi file at the Austrian/Hungarian border where he tried to escape in 1973. (Permission granted by Juergen)

The term expatriation stands for the deprivation or withdrawal of citizenship. Citizens who lived or stayed outside the GDR could be deprived of their citizenship “for gross violation of their civic duties” (Citizenship Act). A prominent example is songwriter Wolf Biermann.

After a performance in Cologne, he was deprived of his GDR citizenship, among other things because of his “hostile behavior towards the German Democratic Republic”. His expatriation met with indignation both inside and outside the GDR and triggered a lasting crisis in the relationship between many intellectuals in the GDR and the SED leadership. Ultimately, the GDR government discredited itself with the means of expatriation, especially since it was resorting to a practice first introduced by the National Socialists (laws of 14 July 1933 on the revocation of naturalization and the revocation of citizenship).

Another prominent citizen was actor Armin Mueller-Stahl who was a star in the East and became famous in the West as well. East German Deprivation of Citizenship

Between building the wall and fall of the wall around 130 East German writers left the country and their citizenship was revoked. But as we can learn from the story of Hans-Juergen Hartwig many citizens more had the same fate just because they wanted to live a life in freedom.


An East German Passport – Wolf Biermann – Singer-Songwriter-Dissident

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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

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